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Budget boost for mental health must rebuild lost nursing posts

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A £1.25bn government funding boost for children’s mental health services is an “important move”, but more money must be provided to make up for recent cuts, nurses have warned.

The investment, confirmed last week in the budget, should be used for additional mental health and children’s nursing jobs to make up for the reduction in posts over the past five years, according to the Royal College of Nursing.

“It’s not necessarily all about having posts within tier 4 and inpatient provision”

Fiona Smith

Fiona Smith, the RCN’s professional lead for children and young people’s nursing, said there should be a focus on creating posts not just within specialist mental health inpatient units, but also within those services that had a preventative role.

“It’s not necessarily all about having posts within tier 4 and inpatient provision – it’s about having appropriate provision in tiers 1 and 2, so that one prevents children and young people having to access high level specialist services,” said Ms Smith.

She added that while the extra money was welcome, it would still mean children’s and young people’s mental health services received less than 10% of the overall mental health budget.

“There needs to be continued investment in this area, particularly in light of the increasing mental health and emotional wellbeing issues young people are displaying today,” she told Nursing Times.

Unite professional officer Dave Munday said the funding boost was an “important move”, but also questioned whether it would be used to create the additional services and changes that were needed in the wake of recent cuts.

Chancellor George Osborne confirmed in his budget that more than £1bn of the extra funding would be allocated for creating new access standards to mental health care for children.

Another £118m will be used to roll out the Children and Young People’s Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies programme across the whole country by 2018-19, and maternal mental health services will receive £75m by 2020.

A further £1.5m will be distributed to pilot a new training scheme for creating designated points of contact in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and in schools – a scheme proposed last week by a government taskforce on children’s mental health.

The taskforce also called for specialist mental health services to ensure a point of contact was available in every local area to support both schools and primary care providers with children’s mental health.

Ms Smith said this proposal was an “important recognition” that children’s mental health nurses were needed within primary and community settings – a part of the workforce that had been reduced in recent years.

Another important proposal made by the taskforce, she said, was for specific education and training on young people’s mental health to be given to all staff working with children.

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